Pokémon Go – Why the Hit App Needs ASO

Pokémon Go – It seems like all anyone can talk about lately. And why not? It became the top grossing app in the US within 13 hours, raising Nintendo’s market value by $9 billion in five days. 21 million users play the game daily. Between four and five million more download it each day. And with well over $1 million daily setting the app above competitors like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, it seems like The Pokémon Company and Niantic are on top of the world.

It might come as a shock, then, that Pokémon Go is in desperate need of ASO.

Beneath the sheen of the Pokémon brand, surprisingly little has been done to market Pokémon Go to mobile users. And while brand recognition and online chatter have contributed significantly to make the app number one on the charts, those factors can only take a game so far. As of now, when the social media masses move on to the next big craze, Pokémon Go won’t have a leg to stand on.

Let’s start with the app’s most crippling weakness – its keyword rankings. As expected, Pokémon Go ranks for multiple Pokémon-related terms, such as “pokémon games free” and “pokémon RPG”.

However, many of these rankings fall well below what you might expect. For instance, as of this writing the app is only rank 8 for “pokémon games free” and a whopping rank 600 for “pokémon RPG”, a shocking figure given that Pokémon Go is, for all intents and purposes, the biggest Pokémon role-playing game of all time.

The rankings only get worse from there. A series of surprising oversights means that users who may connect with Pokémon Go will likely never find it through search. For example, the app does not rank at all for Nintendo, a brand closely associated with the Pokémon legacy. Similarly, the app doesn’t register for its world-famous mascot, Pikachu. Nor does it rank for other famous creatures like Mew, Mewtwo, Squirtle, Charmander or Bulbasaur.

Even generic phrases are missing from Pokémon Go’s keyword rankings. Core words and phrases that are extremely relevant and could help the app grow by leaps and bounds are outright missing, such as:

  • Collect
  • Catch
  • Raise
  • Breed
  • Trade
  • Dragon/s

The list goes on and on. Just take a look at the snippet of Pokémon Go’s ranking report below.

Datacube Pokemon Go Rankings 5

As you can see, the app ranks well for some generic terms like “mobile games”, but lacks rankings for crucial relevant terms that could help more users find the app organically. Just look at how mixed the app’s ratings for Pokémon-related terms are, with most Pokémon rankings falling in the high hundreds or worse.

It’s not just the app’s metadata that’s suffering, either; Pokémon Go’s store page is surprisingly lacking, too.

For starters, the app is completely lacking a preview video. Thousands of users have taken to the Reviews section to complain about a lack of clarity in Pokémon’s features, and the absence of a preview video only compounds confusion around the game’s feature set.

Without a preview video, the task of convincing a user falls to the app’s screenshots. The first screenshot is simply a digital Charmander standing against a barren street corner. There are no feature callouts, no explanatory text to guide users, just a barren and boring image.

The same can be said for each of the following screenshots. Each image is simply a capture from the game, with little to nothing to offer context to the user about what they are seeing. There’s even a low battery shown atop several of the screenshots, highlighting a common complaint from users that the app drains battery too quickly. Next to the battery percentage a charging symbol can be seen, giving the impression that the developers were rushed in creating the screenshots and didn’t have the time to take captures at full battery or edit the images before they were uploaded.

With the massive success of Pokémon Go, it can be easy to overlook just how many ASO best practices the app completely ignores. While the brand’s worldwide recognition has already been enough to launch the app to massive success, once the fires die down on social media, Niantic and The Pokémon Company will need to make sweeping changes to their App Store presence in order to keep their spot at the top.

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